Practicing reinvention

“One thing I’ve learned in my brief career: It’s the side projects that really take off. By side projects I mean the stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens.”

Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon 

Floor plans My English ancestors sailed on the HMS Weymouth from Portsmouth to Algoa Bay in 1820. They were from Burton-in-Kendal, Evlestoke and Guildford. An out of work labourer, a weaver, a wife. It took them 6 months to get there. Their hope: to reinvent themselves in a new country.

Many births, deaths and marriages later, I turned up.

I had a privileged, colonial upbringing. Good schools. Good manners. Good books. My English accent was corrected by my maternal grandmother. Summers were spent at the sea, winters in the game reserve.

Mother England I’m sure, was proud of her colonial child.

Ah, the colonial life (you might say) … wide open spaces, sun, land and opportunity!

True. But. Continue reading Practicing reinvention

Do you speak English?

“And there was never a better time to delve for pleasure in language than the sixteenth century, when novelty blew through English like a spring breeze. Some twelve thousand words, a phenomenal number, entered the language between 1500 and 1650, about half of them still in use today, and old words were employed in ways not tried before. Nouns became verbs and adverbs; adverbs became adjectives. Expressions that could not have grammatically existed before – such as ‘breathing one’s last’ and ‘backing a horse’, both coined by Shakespeare – were suddenly popping up everywhere.”

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson

French language learning
My French reading homework this week.

Dear …
My face is politeness for You.

It’s been a hard day’s night. As to me. I guess for You too.
I must be in a harry – I”m under thumb of my wife.
I carefully exam Your docs and let You know some later. Mayby today.

I wish You unforgettable everning.
Cordially,
Mr …

This is a real email from a real client this week, though I suspect the real author was Google Translate. Continue reading Do you speak English?

2018, tell me all your secrets

“If you can look into the seeds of time. And say which grain will grow and which will not; Speak, then, to me.”

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

“I believe we can rule out anything sinister,” said the radiologist. “Only … there is something rather unusual. You have right-sided hemiagenesis of the thyroid.”

I wiped the gel off my neck and sat up. I leaned in closer to the ultrasound screen. Continue reading 2018, tell me all your secrets

Paris when it sizzles at 38 deg C

“Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrels carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in one realisation, Guillotine.”

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

pantheon parisWe walked slowly, our eyes fixed on the domed roof. The headphone-thingy talked about symmetry, symbolism, liberté, égalité, fraternity. Léon Foucault’s pendulum swung back and forth beside us where it has almost always been since 1851. Christ looked on from his mosaic-ed position on the eastern wall, down at La Convention Nationale sculpture, as if blessing French nationalism … Continue reading Paris when it sizzles at 38 deg C

Parlez-vous français? The importance of learning a foreign language.

“If you ask the great city, ‘Who is this person?,’ she will answer, ‘He is my child.”

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Comment allez vous mes lecteurs?

parlez vous Francais?

Whatever you do, don’t take the decision to learn a new language lightly. To slightly mis-quote from one of my favourite novels set in France, the journey of learning a language is “the best of times, it (is) the worst of times, it (is) the age of wisdom, it (is) the age of foolishness…”.

I was always considered the ‘language person’ in our family. I speak two languages fluently, though one more fluently than the other, and two rather poorly. To have an initial talent in something is not a recipe for success as I learnt rather quickly when I began a night class in French some years ago as an adult. Continue reading Parlez-vous français? The importance of learning a foreign language.

Going mad in the heat and dans le noir

“If we don’t go mad once in a while, there’s no hope.”

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

London is hot hot hotLondon is ROASTING.

There is not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind. It’s 37 degrees on our terrace, 31 degrees in our kitchen and another week of swelter is predicted. Yes, these are the numbers at 18:30 in the evening. Yes, this is London. No we have no rain or cloud to offer at this time – out of stock.

Continue reading Going mad in the heat and dans le noir

Back to the gym

“The room door opened, and Mrs Waterbrook, who was a large lady – or who wore a large dress: I don’t exactly know which, for I don’t know which was dress and which was lady – came sailing in.”

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Back to the gymI’m sorry to keep coming back to Dickens, but this one was a priceless nugget under a pile of clippings which I have fished out on the auspicious occasion of my return to the gym.

I also love a giggle and thought you might like this description.

For a very good reason, Continue reading Back to the gym